Even as Norway refuses to entertain requests from India to hand over the custody of young Abhigyan and Aishwarya to their parents, the matter on Saturday reached Rashtrapati Bhavan as the grandparents of the two children met President Pratibha Devisingh Patil to seek her intervention in the matter.
Three-year-old Abhigyan and his one-year-old sister Aishwarya are in foster care in Norway after the country's Child Protection Service charged their mother, Sagarika, with “negligence and unable to bring up” the children. Barnevarne, a child care service of Norway, took custody of the children in May last year when Aishwarya was just five months old and on breast feed.
A Norwegian court has now ruled that the two children would stay in different foster homes in until the age of 18, with the parents allowed to meet them only once a year for one hour. The court has, however, said that if the couple separated, it could give the custody of the children to the father Anurup Bhattacharya who is employed as a senior geoscientist in a multinational firm since 2006.
The couple fear the worst when their visa expires next month and they would have to return to India without their children.
Talking to The Hindu, Sagarika's parents, Mantosh and Shikha Chakraborty, said the President had expressed surprise over the matter and said she had never heard of such a thing. Ms. Patil assured them that she would try her best to get the children restored to the parents. “We requested her to speak to the King of Norway as diplomatic channels had evoked no response,” Mr. Chakraborty said.
Child right laws in Norway are very strict and it was Abhigyan's “erratic” behaviour at school which made the school authorities suspect that he was probably not being brought up well. The child protection services people started visiting the Bhattacharya household for an hour every week and decided that Sagarika was not capable of looking after her children as she “was in depression, tired and had no patience”. They said the mother “over-fed” her child, fed with fingers and the boy slept with his father.
In a memorandum submitted to the President, the grandparents have said that Abhigyan had already lost his mother tongue. Both the children are traumatized as Barvevarne has arranged to keep them with foster families till 18 years. They have already broken the relation between the natural parents and the children, now they are going to snap the relation between the kids, they said.
The External Affairs Ministry had sent letters to the Norwegian government on December 28 last year and again on January 5 but failed to get any response from them.
“While I do not doubt the intentions of the authorities in Norway, taking away children from their legal guardians who are citizens of another country certainly reflects a wide cultural gulf between their understanding of child care and that in our country,” said Brinda Karat, Polit Bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), who accompanied the couple to Rashtrapati Bhavan.